Africa: Diversity and Development

Africa: Diversity and Development

Africa: Diversity and Development

Africa: Diversity and Development

Synopsis

For many, Africa is regarded as a place of mystery and negative images, where reports of natural disasters and civil strife dominate media attention, with relatively little publicity given to any of the continent's more positive attributes. Africa has at last begun to receive the depth of interest it has long deserved, in the shape of debates about trade, aid and debt, the 'Make Poverty History' campaign, and the UK's 'Commission on Africa'. But, behind the superficial media façade, Africa is a diverse, complex and dynamic place, with a rich history and a colonial engagement that, although short-lived, was fundamental in determining the long-term future of the continent.

At the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century, when the world is engulfed in a major financial crisis, Africa has the dubious distinction of being the world's poorest continent. This book introduces and de-mystifies Africa's diversity and dynamism, and considers how its peoples and environments have interacted through time and space. The background and diversity of Africa's social, cultural, economic, political and environmental systems is examined, as well as key development issues which have affected Africa in the past and are likely to be significant in shaping the future of the continent. These include: the impact of HIV/AIDS; sources of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction; the state and governance; the nature of African economies in a global context and future development trajectories.

Africa: Diversity and Development is a refreshing interdisciplinary text which enhances understanding of the background to Africa's current position and clarifies possible future scenarios. It is richly illustrated throughout with diagrams and plates, and contains a wealth of detailed case studies and current data.

Excerpt

Writing a book on Africa is at the same time both exciting and frustrating. Exciting, because there is just so much going on in this continent of fifty-three countries, and frustrating because it is quite impossible to cover everything and, since the pace of change is so rapid, by the time the book is published it is inevitable that further changes will have taken place. Although one may feel one knows this continent well – and, collectively, we have a total of over seven decades of experience teaching and researching on and in different parts of Africa – there is never a shortage of engaging revelations.

As we write this Preface and prepare to despatch the typescript to the publishers, North Africa is in turmoil as popular democratic uprisings attempt to overthrow dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, while in Libya what amounts to a civil war is in progress, as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi attempts to cling on to the power he has held for forty-two years. Elsewhere in the continent democratic elections have been held in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state, and a referendum has been conducted among the population in the south of Sudan, the continent’s largest state, which has indicated overwhelming grassroots support for breaking away from the north and forming a separate nation. On the economic and social fronts, while Africa still has many of the world’s poorest countries, some African states have experienced rapid economic growth in recent years and have actually made some significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and reducing poverty. Meanwhile, South Africa, the continent’s ‘economic powerhouse’, was in April 2011 invited to Beijing to join a meeting of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China in a summit of the so-called BRIC group of rapidly developing nations. We are in no doubt that in the decades ahead Africa will be the continent to watch in terms of economic and social progress, and will hopefully be engaging on more equal terms with the rest of the world.

A book such as this is, we believe, a timely offering, both to dispel stereotypical perceptions and to raise awareness of Africa’s considerable diversity and potential. The book has its origins in an earlier book, Tropical Africa, written in 1994 by Tony Binns. In this new book, Tony has joined with Alan Dixon and Etienne Nel to consider the entire continent; with a much broader scope and greater depth, this book is very different from the earlier one.

Over the following ten chapters we have attempted to examine many aspects of Africa’s diversity, and key issues which play a role in affecting progress and the quality of life experienced by Africa’s people. One of the key aims of this book is to draw attention to the complex relationships between poverty and development in Africa, and the various factors that influence this. In formulating an appropriate structure for the book, we decided at the outset not to include separate chapters on such topics as gender and politics. Since we firmly believe that these issues are absolutely crucial in understanding so many aspects of the present situation and future prospects, they are considered in a variety of contexts at different points throughout the book: for example, gender aspects of rural life and health; and politics in relation to historical events, conflict and economics. We also recognize . . .

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